Updated: Jan 13
Multiple times over the past few years I have tried to build a model which would be easy to understand and to access the relevant comparative information. This would be particularly useful when comparing teams.
The next section will describe the methodology and the scoring system I have developed. If you want to skip the details and get right to the Astros Depth Chart and Grades- click here.
I am building a football style depth chart. Who starts, and then who would replace the starter, and who would replace him, and well you get the idea.
For each position, I will define the player at each level. I have Included Astros Catcher for an example.
- MLB Starter
- MLB Backup (must be on the projected 26-man)
- Alternate MLB Backup (must be on the projected 26-man)
- MiLB Backup- first player to be promoted (must NOT be on the projected 26-man)
- MiLB Alternate Backup- second player to be promoted (must NOT be on the projected 26-man)
These are my estimates and for the other MLB teams I may need to validate with someone I trust with those teams. These are fluid lists and will change as the depth chart adjusts.
For the position players each player is given a grade based on projected OPS in 2023 per this chart.
I am assigning a classic letter grade to mute some of the noise and mitigate errors that could take place by utilizing at a too granular level this projected OPS data. We are trying to differentiate Incredible (A+) from Great (A) from Good (B) from Average (C) from Subpar (D) from Terrible (F). The distribution of the OPS grades looks like this across the entire MLB population based on the starter limits.
Backups are assigned value targets 0.05 OPS less that the starters. Also, Catchers were assigned their own scale to account for the relative offense at that position.
One ultimate goal for this data will be to compare teams. When comparing teams for 2023 the data above will work. When comparing teams from previous seasons, I will use the wRC+ data and the translation to the left of OPS to wRC+.
One may be screaming WHAT ABOUT DEFENSE? I have a grade adder or subtractor for the MLB players. If they have projected DEFENSIVE WAR per this table, they can move up or down a grade.
For each position the population given these adjustments is very small by design.
If any of this loses you, don't worry. Just focus on the grades below.
I used a similar system for the pitching staff. For pitchers I have divided the staff into starters, mid/long relief. and the high leverage relief. For pitching the grades are based solely on projected FIP.
The Long Relief scale was set at +0.3 FIP to the High Leverage Relief. The grade distribution for these populations looks like this.
Again, one ultimate goal for this data will be to compare teams. When comparing teams for 2023, the data above will work. When comparing teams from previous seasons, I will use the FIP- data and the translation to the left of FIP to FIP-.
Again, the goal here is to differentiate projected performance without getting too bogged down in small differences.
Astros Graded Depth Chart
Ok, so that was the system I created. So how do the Astros grade out? That data is below, and we will compare to other teams over the next few weeks. We will also compare to the great Astros teams of the past.
The OPS Depth Chart Table for the Astros Position Players looks like this.
Translating that into the Graded Depth Chart Table looks like this. You can see the system grades by position and the grades of each level.
You will see that the Astros Starting Position Players Grade out at B+ overall. You may be surprised that Pena and McCormick are projected so low given your beliefs about their 2022 seasons.
- Pena hit 0.715 OPS in 2022 and is projected to hit 0.710 OPS in 2023- sounds fair
- McCormick is a career 0.751 OPS hitter and is projected to hit 0.688 OPS in 2023- I don't know either.
- You are likely to be equally surprised to see Dubon's projected OPS. The algorithms are projecting him to perform more like he did in 2019 and 2020 and not like he did for the Astros in 2022. Let's hope they are correct.
I am sticking with this system so I can apply it equally to other teams even if I don't understand an output of the algorithms.
Also note, Maldonado got a defensive bump up to C and Abreu got a defensive bump down to B.
If you study this table, you will see the positional value Hensley brings. Providing B level backup at 1B, 2B, 3B, and SS is very valuable. I did not list Hensley yet as a backup LF but will do so if he is being given time there in Spring Training. Having only 61 innings played in LF in his ENTIRE career at all levels means it is too early to put him there in this table.
Dubon project to be an extreme value in positional flexibility and if he does hit as projected, then the Astros will be proven correct in sticking with him. I have said he is making this team out of Spring Training many times.
I also projected Diaz as a backup at 1B. You will see more and more reports about Diaz getting defensive reps at 1B and LF and his projected bat is why.
I expect the players listed as the top backups in the minors to be one of the most fluid parts of this table.
Overall, the table shows the Astros organization is strongest at DH, RF, LF, and 1B. The organization is weakest at SS and CF. Monitoring Leon's and/or Dirden's progress in CF is the key there. The strong C backups boost the organizational score there.
Overall, the position players in the total organization rank a B overall.
Here is the FIP Depth Chart table.
Translating that into the Graded Depth Chart Table looks like this. You can see the system grades by pitching role and the grades of both MLB and MiLB pitchers relative to the scoring system I showed.
You can see the starting pitching is good but perhaps not GREAT. The starting pitching grades out as a B.
Javier may surprise one that the projections rate him so low. He is still early in his career and 2022 was really a breakout from his previous performances.
Brown projects to be a real star. Despite his lack of actual innings at the MLB level the projection systems LOVE Brown. Maybe we all should too.
The back of the bullpen is excellent, and the long relief is good.
Pressly is one of only 14 RP to get a A+ grade. The projection systems agree with most of us Astros fans that Abreu will be GREAT.
Montero and Stanek take steps back from their huge 2o22 performances.
Overall, the MiLB pitching, even relative to their level, does look like it's a step back from the MLB staff at their level. This would indicate that the prospect capital is waning from the MLB team in the area of pitching. Look for the team to invest more in pitching with international free agents and in the draft.
The overall pitching grades out as a B.
Who else surprises you on the pitching staff?
Now that I have this framework, I will be applying it to all of the other teams, and we can see how the Astros compare to the other teams in 2023.
The next stop however will be to apply this system to the great Astros teams of the past and to answer the question - what was the Greatest Astros team ever.
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